Bears

Bears, Lovie agree to extension through 2013

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Bears, Lovie agree to extension through 2013

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011Posted: 8:35 a.m. Updated: 10:44 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Bears like to think of their organization as family, the McCaskey-Halas foundation and all that. But Lovie Smith has taken that to the next level.

The agent for Smiths new two-year extension was concluded by none other than son Matthew Smith, a second-year Loyola University law student, building on the work done by agent Frank Bauer in the course of Smiths initial contract and 2007 extension.

That previous extension involved a substantial increase in compensation and was somewhat more difficult to conclude than the one announced Friday.

I cant remember back that far 2007, Smith deadpanned. When youre 52, you start forgetting a lot of things. I know I signed a contract back then. I know the contract this time was an easy agreement for my agent Matthew Smith to make. It went along smoothly.

I feel very comfortable having three years on my contract. Thats plenty of time. I feel comfortable having all of us being connected together as far as the length of our contracts. Again, Im excited. Its exactly what I wanted.

The Bears extended Smiths contract through the 2013 season, as CSNChicago.com reported was imminent earlier this week. The extension places Smith and GM Jerry Angelo on the same expiration timetable.

Financial details werent immediately available but Smith will be among the top 10 NFL coaching salaries, above 5 million coming off two NFC Championship game appearances in the last five seasons and three NFC North division titles in the last six.

The new contract follows extensions for offensive line coach Mike Tice and other assistants, assuring staff continuity for next couple of seasons.

Of course I feel great about the extension like I have every day Ive been on the job as head coach of the Chicago Bears, Smith said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine Its a great organization, we have great players that come to work every day. We have an excellent coaching staff. Im in position to be here and of course get that extension because of what the staff has done. They all did a great job.

But were all excited about this next step. Jerry and I worked together well, not just during our time here in Chicago but in Tampa also. We feel like we have a good combination going and we look forward to taking the next step.

Winning tradition

Smith ranks behind only George Halas (318) and Mike Ditka (106) in victories with 63 and his .562 winning percentage trails only those two in franchise history as well.

The new deal marks the second extension for Smith, a first-time head coach when he succeeded Dick Jauron after the 2003 season. The Bears extended Smiths contract after the 2006 Super Bowl run, more than doubling his pay at that point. He survived three straight seasons out of the playoffs after that, was retained after the 7-9 record in 2009 and rewarded the organization with an 11-5 season and a trip to the playoffs that ended with a loss in Soldier Field to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers.

Smiths three division titles since 2005 are the second-most in the NFC (Seattle, four) and tied for fifth-most in the NFL. Since 2005, the Bears are one of just two teams in the NFC (Atlanta) to post three 11-plus win seasons.

Smith has a regular season coaching record of 63-49 and is 3-3 in the postseason (66-52 overall).

The Big Sandy, Texas native was named the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year for 2005 after becoming the fastest head coach in Bears history to lead the team to a division title. He joined Mike Ditka as the only other coach in franchise history to lead the team to consecutive division titles (2005, 2006) and is the first coach in team history to reach the playoffs in two of his first three seasons with the club.

Under Smith, the Bears own a 26-16 regular season record against NFC North opponents and have posted a regular season winning record against all three teams in the division. Chicago is 10-4 against Detroit and 8-6 against both Green Bay and Minnesota.

Since Smith became the 13th head coach in franchise history in 2004, Chicagos defense leads the NFL in takeaways (235), opponent third-down efficiency (33.8), highest percentage of three-and-out drives forced (26.6) and stuffs (398). The Bears defense ranks second in the NFL in interceptions (137) and fumble recoveries (98), 3rd in the Aikman Efficiency Ratings for defense (78.8) and fourth in total points allowed (19.2) since 2004.

Smith is tied for the second-longest tenure in the NFC (Tom Coughlin, N.Y. Giants) and the tied for the fifth-longest tenure in the NFL.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.